As we celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday, I want to put the political debates of today aside and take time to reflect on the many blessings that we all-too-often take for granted. As I sat down to write this column, four very distinct blessings came to my mind.
The first blessing we all have is life. I was reminded of that earlier this year when my granddaughter Ann-Roberts Byrne was born. She was, like all of us at that point in our lives, small, weak and helpless. But life radiated from her, shooting out like little rays. It reminded me of a line from a poem by the British poet, William Wordsworth: “Heaven lies about us in our infancy!”
But there is also life in an elderly person, like my mother in law, Flora Dukes, who radiated like the sun in the days leading up to her death four years ago. All life – new, old, and in between – is precious, because it is an individual gift to each of us from our Creator.
The second blessing is family and good friends. We weren’t made to be alone. In fact, in the Creation story, God made Adam and put him in the Garden of Eden, but saw that something was missing, saying “It is not good that the man should be alone.” We are all made more complete in our rich and loving relationships with each other.
Look at the child in her mother’s lap reading a story, two friends sharing a secret only the two of them would truly understand, or neighbors after a hurricane has struck coming to one another’s aid. A British clergyman named John Donne once said in another poem, “No man is an island, entire unto itself, Everyman is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”
The third blessing is the world around us. Not the human made stuff, but the natural world. Here on the Gulf Coast we are so richly blessed with an abundance of rivers and streams, bays and lakes, the Gulf of Mexico and the Mobile Tensaw River Delta, our abundant woods and beaches, and the greatest diversity of plants and animals in North America.
There is also the glorious light of the rising sun, and the deep beauty in its setting; the warmth of a spring sun, and the welcome cool breeze just before a summer thunderstorm breaks; and the quiet beauty of it all, if we would just stop, be quiet and take in this natural world.
The final blessing is our freedoms and our rights. The Founders of our country declared our independence with these words: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness – That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
We all have the freedoms of religion, speech, press, assembly and petition; and the right to bear arms. These and many others are the treasured birthrights that all of us here in the United States have. They are God-given but must be defended and protected by us every day.
So, this Thanksgiving, I encourage you to also take time to count the many blessings in your life. Despite the daily challenges we all face, may we never lose sight of the precious blessings that bring so much joy to our lives.
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Bradley Byrne is a member of U.S. Congress representing Alabama’s 1st Congressional District.